Local Artisan Creates With Upcycled Materials and Natural Fibers
Writer / Megan Arszman
It’s a repetitious sound, hearing the needle quickly going in and out of the wool and cushion. With the speed of a sewing machine, but the precision of an engineer’s eye, local artisan Michelle Arszman creates portraits and scenes from her creative mind using natural materials, through an art form called needle felting.
“I started needle felting more than 15 years ago after I attended a workshop in hand arts in Franklin,” Arszman says. “I fell in love with it because it was a way for me to express my creativity in ways I hadn’t been able to do before.”
Arszman uses all-natural fibers from sheep, llamas and alpacas, as well as a few surprising contributors like dog hair, cat hair and horsehair.
“I get the funniest looks from people when I tell them sometimes I use dog hair in my needle felting,” Arszman says. “However, if I’m doing a custom portrait of a dog, what better way to match the dog’s unique color and coat texture than by using some of their own fur?”
The majority of Arszman’s work is upcycled, which means she reuses items in different ways. The back of her portraits and the base of some of her needle-felted pillows are recycled wool dresses or sweaters that she finds at thrift stores. The straps for her market totes and purses are recycled from old purses. The frames used for the artwork are recycled. The imagery and ideas, however, are all innovative and come straight from her mind.
When Arszman started All Wooled Up, she began with doing needle felting on purses, then decided to frame some of her artwork when customers said it was too beautiful to carry. She’s a lifelong horsewoman and animal lover, and you’ll find many of her pieces highlighting horses, sheep, birds and landscapes. She used to depict lots of dogs, and after hearing from customers expressing wishes that she would produce custom works of their special pets, she started taking on commissions for custom artwork.
“The process for my custom pieces is so easy, and really I love bringing a customer’s beloved pet to life in a way that they will always remember them,” Arszman says.
She works from photographs of the subject, and speaks with the customer to find out their preferred color background and portrait size, as well as any special traits about the animal.
The holidays find her busy doing custom work, as well as traveling across the state of Indiana to attend fiber shows, artisan markets and holiday pop-up shops. While she has her work featured on Etsy and on her website, most people don’t appreciate it until they see it in person.
“The art is more than two-dimensional,” she says. “It has texture, color and personality.”
To find out more about All Wooled Up and Michelle Arszman’s work, visit AllWooledUp.com.